The Trials of Nina McCall
The nearly forgotten story of the American Plan, one of the largest and longest-lasting mass quarantines in American history, told through the lens of one young woman's story. In 1918, shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Nina McCall was told to report to the local health officer to be examined for sexually transmitted infections. Confused and humiliated, Nina did as she was told, and the health officer performed a hasty (and invasive) examination and quickly diagnosed her with gonorrhea. Though Nina insisted she could not possibly have an STI, she was coerced into committing herself to the Bay City Detention Hospital, a facility where she would spend almost three miserable months subjected to hard labor, exploitation, and painful injections of mercury.Nina McCall was one of many women unfairly imprisoned by the United States government throughout the twentieth century. The government locked up tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of women and girls--usually without due process--simply because officials suspected these women were prostitutes, carrying STIs, or just "promiscuous."This discriminatory program, dubbed the "American Plan," lasted from the 1910s into the 1950s, implicating a number of luminaries, including Eleanor Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Earl Warren, and even Eliot Ness, while laying the foundation for the modern system of women's prisons. In some places, vestiges of the Plan lingered into the 1960s and 1970s, and the laws that undergirded it remain on the books to this day.Scott Stern tells the story of this almost forgotten program through the life of Nina McCall. Her story provides crucial insight into the lives of countless other women incarcerated under the American Plan. Stern demonstrates the pain and shame felt by these women and details the multitude of mortifications they endured, both during and after their internment. Yet thousands of incarcerated women rioted, fought back against their oppressors, or burned their detention facilities to the ground; they jumped out of windows or leapt from moving trains or scaled barbed-wire fences in order to escape. And, as Nina McCall did, they sued their captors. In an age of renewed activism surrounding harassment, health care, prisons, women's rights, and the power of the state, this virtually lost chapter of our history is vital reading.

The Trials of Nina McCall Details

TitleThe Trials of Nina McCall
Author
ReleaseMay 15th, 2018
PublisherBeacon Press
ISBN-139780807042755
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Feminism, Sexuality, Historical

The Trials of Nina McCall Review

  • Darcia Helle
    January 1, 1970
    I'm sitting here trying to come up with the right words to express my thoughts. They won't come. I think I'm still in shock. What I can immediately tell you is don't hesitate; read this book. Scott Stern is a talented writer. His style is narrative nonfiction, similar to Erik Larson's writing. He puts us in the moment, with all the emotions of the people involved and the turmoil surrounding the events. I felt it all happening and saw it playing out. The research is impeccable. Stern clearly put I'm sitting here trying to come up with the right words to express my thoughts. They won't come. I think I'm still in shock. What I can immediately tell you is don't hesitate; read this book. Scott Stern is a talented writer. His style is narrative nonfiction, similar to Erik Larson's writing. He puts us in the moment, with all the emotions of the people involved and the turmoil surrounding the events. I felt it all happening and saw it playing out. The research is impeccable. Stern clearly put his heart and soul, along with an immense amount of time and energy, into writing this book. And now the content, which is where words fail me. How had I never heard of the American Plan? How could my own country, the supposed "land of the free", randomly pluck women off the streets, force them to submit to gynecological exams, and lock them away without even a basic court hearing? I am appalled that, not only did this happen, but it went on for decades. I am shocked at the absolute media silence surrounding inhumane treatment.Within the pages of this book, we see misogyny at its core, at a time when government and police forces were very much male-dominated. We see how fear drives racism and bigotry. We see how war provides cover for all sorts of atrocious behavior, right here within our own borders, perpetrated by those in power upon those who are powerless. I cannot properly express the impact this book had on me. Scott Stern gave us the gift of unearthing all the dirty secrets and laying them out for us to see. I hope everyone will pick up a copy of this book and give Nina McCall, and all the women like her, the courtesy of acknowledging what was done to them under the guise of the so-called American Plan.*I received an advance copy from the publisher, via Amazon Vine, in exchange for my honest review.*
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  • R.E. Conary
    January 1, 1970
    The Trials of Nina McCall (Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women) is author Scott W. Stern’s meticulously researched exposé of America’s unconscionable misuse of power. The writing can be dry at times but that only accentuates the mind-numbing, gut-wrenching atrocities inflicted. Nina McCall was but one victim of the draconian and misogynistic laws passed and enforced by “right-minded”, primarily white, male-dominated, government and police force The Trials of Nina McCall (Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women) is author Scott W. Stern’s meticulously researched exposé of America’s unconscionable misuse of power. The writing can be dry at times but that only accentuates the mind-numbing, gut-wrenching atrocities inflicted. Nina McCall was but one victim of the draconian and misogynistic laws passed and enforced by “right-minded”, primarily white, male-dominated, government and police forces. She — and others like her — tried to fight back but most lost their legal battles. All would be forgotten if not for Scott Stern.A harrowing and haunting story. An American shame brought to light, it should be required reading in every high school, college and university and read by every office holder and every law enforcement officer.*I read an advance copy of "The Trials of Nina McCall."
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoy reading about little-known, unbelievable events that happened in our country, and that is why I chose this book. This book is about a little-known and shocking event in our country’s history. It is about the American Plan, a plan in effect from the 1910’s into the 1950’s, that originally tried to keep sexually transmitted diseases from spreading. This was the period of our history that was greatly affected by the World Wars, so the American Plan was originally created to stop the spread I enjoy reading about little-known, unbelievable events that happened in our country, and that is why I chose this book. This book is about a little-known and shocking event in our country’s history. It is about the American Plan, a plan in effect from the 1910’s into the 1950’s, that originally tried to keep sexually transmitted diseases from spreading. This was the period of our history that was greatly affected by the World Wars, so the American Plan was originally created to stop the spread of the diseases through the ranks of the armed forces.First, young women who were suspected of “loose” behavior” were followed. Eventually, they were forced to succumb to ineffectual testing of these diseases. If the authorities decided the girl had one of the diseases, she was forced into a facility where she received ineffectual and debilitating treatment.Nina McCall was one such girl. However, it was never even proven that she ever had the disease. Despite that, she was forcibly incarcerated and given weekly injections of mercury. These were not a proven cure, and, as you can imagine had disastrous results in her health. After she was released after three months, she was continually stalked and forced to continue painful treatments. When she tried to disappear, her mother was threatened by social workers.I had thought this book was a biography about Nina. However, I found it to be a very detailed account of the history and furtherance of the American Plan, a little-known plan to protect soldiers from diseases thought to be spread by promiscuous women. It is a well-researched and detailed historical account.I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • El
    January 1, 1970
    Rating and review to come.
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